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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

Faculty express concerns for Grand Challenges

After receiving a packet of information at the door, IU faculty members and staff members began to pile into the Indiana Memorial Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium.

These faculty members and staff members all gathered for one purpose: to learn more about the Grand Challenges 
Initiative.

Attendees were able to express their concerns and pose their inquiries about the Grand Challenges Initiative through a question-and-answer session at IU-Bloomington’s Grand Challenges Town Hall meeting Friday.

The Bicentennial Strategic Plan for IU-Bloomington, approved December 2014, defines Grand Challenges as widespread problems best identified and tackled by multidisciplinary teams of 
researchers.

The town hall-style meeting started with IU’s vice president of research, Fred Cate, giving an overview of the Grand Challenges Initiative.

He gave attendees an idea of what the program is looking for as far as proposals by using some of IU President Michael McRobbie’s words.

“President McRobbie has made clear that this was what I inherited,” Cate said. “And that this was what we are going to implement, that we are going to measure the Grand Challenge investments ... the criteria a ‘few, large, focused and measured on their impact.’”

Cate described the goals of the Grand Challenges as focused on the notion of tangible effects and transforming IU through strategic hires and extraordinary 
investments.

Once an overview was given by both Cate and Rick Van Kooten, IU-Bloomington’s vice provost of research, attendees were able to ask questions or express their concerns regarding the Grand 
Challenges.

First to express concern was David Fisher, a professor under the department of mathematics.

He described how he felt the initiative needed to do a better job preventing damage to the morale of the faculty.

He added that he believes the Emerging Areas funding program, a program meant to fund smaller projects that do not qualify as Grand Challenges, needed to be 
expanded.

“I think the Emerging Areas can come and meet faculty at the place where they live and be great for faculty in a way that’s easier and more concrete for faculty than the Grand Challenges,” Fisher said.

Fisher also discussed his concerns about the review process, including the fact that decisions are being made by administrators rather than being made based on basic 
scientific research.

In response, Cate said the review process is meant to be as transparent and collaborative as possible, unlike the review process for other grant programs.

“It may be a mistake, but we’re going, I think, to keep trying to push for this very collaborative approach in ways in which people are constantly 
engaged,” Cate said.

Jonathan Karty, a professor under the department of chemistry, also conveyed his concerns.

He asked about how flexible the budget was and if it changes once the Grand Challenge is awarded.

Van Kooten responded by saying the budget would be flexible and updated every year.

“It should change because it’s an evolving thing,” Van Kooten said.

Another question was asked in regard to smaller projects, which could have a larger effect, not being considered a Grand Challenge and certain projects being more opportunistic than others, which could put faculty at a disadvantage.

Cate responded by telling attendees that proposals should show how to bring an idea from the lab to delivering the idea to the public.

“That’s the notion here of the Grand Challenge is to try to make it translational from the science or the original creativity to something that will show benefits and trying to identify the steps or the obstacles or the amendments along the way,” Cate said.

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